A true sign of a great movie, in my eyes, is one that completely engulfs you to the point that you feel as if you are a part of the story. You feel like you are an observer on the street corner watching all of the events unfold before your eyes. That is exactly how I felt as I watched Finding Neverland, a movie based on the man who wrote the famous children’s play, Peter Pan.
As the story begins, we see James M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) pacing around quite nervously, anticipating the curtain to rise on opening night of his latest play. It seems as if he has a reason to be nervous because this current play turns out to be a flop, and his producer (Dustin Hoffman) is beginning to grow impatient. With problems with work as a playwright, and problems at home with his wife, Mr. Barrie is truly feeling the pressure. His next play will have to be a hit in order for him to stay afloat in the competitive world of theatre.
Mr. Barrie finds most of his inspiration for his next play while reading the newspaper in a park nearby his home. There he finds four fatherless boys (one named Peter) frolicking around as their mother (Kate Winslet) watches from afar. Immediately, Mr. Barrie is taken with the boys’ wild imaginations and is touched by the loss of their father. He and the Davies family become very close throughout their meetings in the park where they tell stories and act out plays. They discover the child inside by touching upon the world of make believe.
While Mr. Barrie and the Davies family are just having innocent fun, people in town are beginning to question why a married man would be spending so much time with a widow and her sons. The boys’ grandmother (Julie Christie) believes that this relationship is impairing any chances for her daughter to get re-married. It is also adding to the already present conflict between Mr. Barrie and his wife. However, by playing pirates and Indians with the boys, Barrie is able to find ‘Neverland’ which inspires him to write the most successful play he would ever write.
The imagery involved in the movie is quite different from most. In one scene you see the bedroom doors of Mr. Barrie and his wife. Behind hers is a bed and behind his is ‘Neverland.’ In another scene, we see Barrie and the boys as pirates aboard a massive ship as they act out a story. Of course this is all in their minds. This is a film that truly allows you to use your imagination to infinite levels. You almost want to become like the Davies boys and never grow up.
Parents who take their children to this picture should know that there are some very sad themes throughout. The plot revolves around four children who not only lose their father, but are losing their mother as well. Furthermore, we learn that Mr. Barrie himself had suffered great loss in his childhood. There are also a few references to speculations that Mr. Barrie is being inappropriate with the children by spending too much time with them. Also, the subject of adultery is touched upon when Barrie begins not coming home until past dinnertime.
Some questions to talk about with children who see this film may be why Barrie had so much fun with the Davies family and was sad to see them grow up. How important is having an active imagination? How did the children handle the loss of both parents at such a young age? What is the best part about being a child? What is the best part about being a grown-up?